Saturday, September 19, 2020

New School year worksheet

Home school rules poster

What makes you happy?

A free positive downloadable worksheet.

Why I feel the UK education system needs an overhaul

 I was asked today by a friend why I think the UK education system is failing. 

This got me thinking, I am passionate about the rights of children to an education but also about children flourishing and having their needs met. All children are different, learn in different ways so this needs to be catered for.

What needs to be asked is:

'What is the purpose of education?'. 

This answer will be different depending on who you ask.

There are three conceptual models for education:

Human Capital -This theory considers that education is relevant for creating skills and knowledge that serves as an investment as people being productive workers and helping the economy.

The rights based Model - Education is a basic human right.

 Article 26 UN Human rights 1945 – Everyone has right to an education and should be free at elementary level.

 Education is everyone’s right. There is value in education itself rather than what is achieved from it

 (Things that limit this idea could be things such as poverty, war, violence towards girls. 

Capabilities Model:

The capabilities model highlights social justice and quality of life – aim is to remove inequality.

Widening actual opportunities a person has to develop capabilities which will expand their choice of functioning.


I believe the UK system is based upon the Rights based model and human capital. While there is value in both of these, I personally prefer to focus on a capabilities model. Where children are encourage to flourish. Teachers are some of the most passionate people I know who want the best for children but are very constricted by the system, paperwork, assessments and curriculum. They do not much have agency in the classroom.

Here are some of the reasons that I think the UK education systems needs an overhaul:

  1. The 5 day a week, 6 hours a day school with large classes still hints largely at the the education system introduced in the industrial revolution that aimed to prepare students for factory life. Society has changed dramatically and we are no longer trying to produce complaint factory workers that essentially just turn up and conform. We are  in a time where we need thinkers, those who will create and be innovative. 
  2. The curriculum is decided on by governments. They are deciding what is important for the children to learn. Is what they deem relevant to be included really what children need to be learning? Does the history curriculum reflect the multicultural society we live in?                   Many teachers I interviewed deem what they are teaching a waste of time considering the technological world we are living in. A high school science teacher from Wales said to me:    'Why am I insisting my students memorize formulae when we are in a time when everything is at the click of a finger - especially for children who do not want to pursue science at the next level'.  Something to ponder over. When thinking like this, even the exams are out of date.
  3. People learn best in different ways and children are no different. Where one child may be a auditory learning and listening to the teacher works for them in terms of retaining information, another child in the class may need to be hands on and use materials to help them understand something. Where schools do try to incorporate different activities, large classes and lack of staff often lead to the same style of learning; teacher at the front of the class speaking to a class about a subject and then they complete worksheets or work in books. 
  4. Children are starting academic formal work at 4 years old. I feel this is too early for formal work. In many of the top performing countries, children do not start formal education until they are 7 years old. Before that they learn life and social skills through play. When children are slightly older, they will be more emotional and intellectually ready to learn and progress much quicker and easily. 
  5. There are too many tests and exams from a young age that is putting unnecessary pressure and stress on children. Schools have become too focused on statistics and results. Teachers are teaching to the test a lot of the time. What is wrong with teacher observation and class work to monitor progression?? Not all children perform well in exam conditions and find it easy to memorize information.
  6. Teachers are the ones that are spending everyday with the children yet they have little agency over what and how they can teach. With prescribed curricula and tests it leaves little time for teachers to use their skills and make learning accessible for everyone in a fun way.

I am aware that different curricula are used throughout the UK. England, Scotland and Wales and using different curricula. All of the points I made i believed are aimed at all of them however Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence and Wales's new Curriculum 2022 are improved and aim to put the child at the centre of their learning with capacities. I think the implementation has been problematic so the above issues still are arising.  

I would love to see a education system that starts formal education at 7 years old and embraces every child as an individual. Different learning styles and choices of what and how to learn for the children. I think a big focus should be on the global drivers (technology, demographic change and sustainability) as they are relevant for the next generation we are educating. 

Education systems around the world each have positive and negative points but definitely can be learnt from and embraced. 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Book review - Clever Lands by Lucy Crehan

 A must read for those interested in education and how different top performing countries run their systems. 

This book is written by Lucy Crehan, a teacher from a London inner city school. Working in an area where they is lots of deprivation, Lucy felt that all the work she was putting in wasn't making a difference to the children. She first hand saw how systematic disadvantages affected many of the children in her school and limited their future options. 

Lucy began thinking about the education systems from around the world that were classed as the top performers (well above the UK). She was curious at what these systems did for students and teachers that puts them above the rest.

Lucy spent a year travelling to 5 different countries, stayed with teachers or families and went into the schools to see first hand how things were done and to explore their education systems. 

 The 5 countries were:

  • Finland
  • Japan
  • Singapore
  • China
  • Canada
Lucy goes into details about all the systems, about what is expected of children, how parents view the systems, how teachers are viewed and more.

She finishes the book with 5 principles for a top performing education system. 

Coming from the UK where children start school the September after their 4th birthday, the main thing that stuck out for me is that in Finland, Singapore and China children don't start school until they are 7 years old. In Japan and Canada they start at 6. 

What is focused on before this in pre-school is that children learn life and important skills through play. I love this and the fact that these children are out-performing their counter parts in the UK shows that there is no adverse affects in starting formal education a bit later. 

This is a principle that I would love to see implemented in the UK. Children starting formal education at 7 years old. Having taught in the foundation stage and seen some of my children struggling to grasp things at 4 years old, I believe this would hugely benefit children, their mental health, development and their academic progress.

Friday, September 4, 2020

The boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

I was recommended this book from my sister as we had been studying World War 2. 

We read this aloud and the children listening were between ages 12 and 7. It is a gripping read and rather emotionally upsetting in parts. 

This book is told in through the voice of a child - Bruno (age 9). His father is a soldier (Nazi) who works for Hitler and moves Bruno and his family to Auschwitz where he has been posted in 1943. It is written in a way that hooks you and is understandable even for children. 

Bruno's innocence is demonstrated through the book as he has lack of understanding what his father does and what is happening to the people behind the camp. The book led to many discussion while we were reading about the behaviour of humans and the atrocities of what happened in the concentration camps.

A big theme of the book is the friendship that Bruno makes after moving to Auschwitz with a Jewish boy that is behind the fence. Bruno does not understand about the camp his new friend is in and what his dad is involved in. 

He tries to learn more throughout the book but is often conflicted when believing his father is a bad person. The book takes a twist that none of us expected at the end (Be aware this is upsetting and my children were very emotional when we finished). 

I would recommend this book as we all enjoyed the read and learnt more about the holocaust and the atrocities that happened. I would definitely say it is for late ks2 age children + (ages 10years +) for reading alone. My 7 year old enjoyed the book as we read it but needed the discussions we had about it as we went to allow her to understand more. 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Things I wish I had known when starting out home educating!

 With more people than ever choosing to home educate their children, I thought a post of some of the things I have learnt over the years would be good. Those things I wish I had known at the start!


1.      You cannot replicate school at home. It didn’t take me long of trying to do school at home to realise it does not work and that the reason I took my children out of school was to give them an individualized, flexible education to suit them.

I was not teaching 30 children in a classroom anymore; I was not teaching at a pace to fit everyone’s needs and tick boxes. I was teaching my children – each with their own learning style and personality and I had to move as fast or slow as they needed in a way that suits them.


2.      Don’t compare!

Following on from first point, your child is an individual. Do not compare them to their siblings, other home-schooled children or public-school children. Each child shines in their own way, each has skills specific to them.

Also don’t compare yourself to other home-school families. Each family rolls the way that suits them. Different families often lean towards what their families enjoys the most and what works for them; whether this is sport, literature, science, nature adventures, maths, computers or languages (the list is endless).

You need to find what suits your family, what you enjoy and build your home school around this.


3.      You do not need to follow any one curriculum. Coming from a teaching background, my experience was from the English National Curriculum and the Welsh curriculum which my children followed when in school. I feel that these curriculum put limits on learning. They only delve to a certain level and ultimately it is the government and education ministers that are deciding what is important or relevant for your children to learn. We just need to think about what history is taught in schools and this point is well and truly made.

Things to think about when choosing what to follow is to consider what you want your children to learn and what they themselves want to learn.

There are so many different curricula to chose from, it can get overwhelming and expensive. I would try and get samples, listen to reviews and really work out what works for you. I have got to the point where I have constructed my own curriculum and pulled parts of many different ones that I feel work for us. Never feel constricted by a curriculum. Learning is not limited or tied to guidelines. Learning is lifelong and happens all day, everyday.


4.      You will have days when things are hard and don’t go to plan. That is real life. What I have learnt is that when things happen, and life gets tough. Take a break – allow yourself time to refresh and then move on.


5.      Don’t buy too many textbooks. I made this mistake and bought so much when starting out. I am still dealing with some of them now. The problem with this was that many of them did not suit my children’s learning styles and some I didn’t like the way they are set out or taught. In my opinion many of them killed the subject, they were boring and uninspiring. Textbooks are not the only option so think big when deciding how you will teach subjects.


6.      Treat each child as an individual and work out what style of learning suits them best (Visual, auditory, kinestheic or reading/writing). Home-schooling allows you to customize the education you provide for your child. Not all will learn at the same speed, in the same learning style and be interested in the same subjects.


7.      Education is not a race! The school system makes us believe that children should all be at a certain point at a certain age. The reality is that there are developmental brackets (usually 3-4 year span) that children develop certain skills within, it all depends on the child. So expecting children to all read at the same time is not realistic. When we think back to when our children were babies and toddler, there is often months difference even between siblings for when they crawled, walked and talked. Each will hit developmental milestones when they are ready. Academic learning is the same. 


8.      Flexibility is key. One of the great blessing of home-schooling is that you do not have to fit into the 6 hour, 5 days a week slots that public schools do. You can work when it fits your family. Morning, afternoons, weekends. Use this to your advantage. Have spontaneous trips out, meet up with friends and embrace the freedom home educating gives you. 


9.      You will be questioned and judged. Family, friends and strangers will question your choice to home educate. They will question your ability; they will question what the children are learning, and they will question you about socialisation and claim you are making your child awkward! 

Be confident in what you are doing for your family and don’t let others bring you down.


10.   Making connections, spending time with family and friends, experiences and days out are a big part of home-schooling. Embrace them and don’t question the idea that you are not sat at a table for more hours. I was always worried that we were not spending enough time doing worksheets but when I started to document our trips and experiences that involved many learning experiences, I was really surprised at how much we managed to fit in.


Below are some of the things that I have found useful since starting our journey:

(Again they worked for me but may not work for everyone).

·        My printer

·        My laminator

·        My binder

·        Academic diaries (page a day).

·        Khan Academy for maths tutorials for older children

·        Twinkl for worksheets

·        Canva templates for making educational worksheets, planning and timetables.

·        OpenLearn free short courses for those age 13 years+. (The open University)

·        Maths Cubes

·        Handheld white boards and pens

·        A pencil case of sharpies in my handbag for when out and about (pebble art)